Civil Rights VW And Astronaut’s Corvette Go On Show In Washington DC This September
Two very different vehicles are to be displayed in Washington DC this September, as part of the Fifth Annual Cars at the Capital exhibition. on September 12-19, Apollo 12 Astronaut Alan Bean’s 1969 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray will be shown on the walkway between the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum and the National Gallery of Art.
Then, on September 20-26, the 1966 Volkswagen Deluxe Station Wagon owned by Esau and Janie B Jenkins, pioneers of the 1960s civil rights movement, will replace the Corvette in the glass enclosure organized by the Historic Vehicle Association (HVA) every year.
Both are free to view, and are being commemorated and recorded as part of the HVA’s National Historic Vehicle Register program, in partnership with the US Department of the Interior’s Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) to be permanently archived in the Library of Congress.
From 1961, General Motors offered all astronauts the chance to lease a Chevrolet Corvette for $1 a year. Each came from former Indy 500 winner and GM dealer Jim Rathmann, whose dealership was close to the Space Center in Florida.
Alan Bean was the fourth human to walk on the moon, as part of the Apollo 12 Lunar Module Pilot in 1969, with mission commander Pete Conrad and command module pilot Dick Gordon. The three chose a gold and black color combination with a red, white and blue plaque on the front left fender. In each square on their three cars were LMP, CDR and CMP, to stand for the positions they held on the mission.
The Corvette has covered just 35,000 miles and has won several awards, including a Top Flight award (more than 97 points) at the 2002 National Corvette Restorers Society (NCRS) National Meet, the 2003 Duntov Award of Excellence at the NCRS Nationals and the 2008 NCRS American Heritage Award “for the preservation of a historically significant piece of Corvette history”, making it the only Corvette in history to win both Duntov and Heritage awards. It’s been privately owned by Danny Reed for the last 48 years. Sadly the other two 1969 astronaut cars no longer exist.
The 1966 Volkswagen Deluxe Station Wagon was owned by Esau and Janie B Jenkins, who dedicated their lives to providing opportunities, and hope, to the people of Johns Island, South Carolina and beyond. In the 1940s, they would use money made from farming and selling produce to transport children to school and workers to jobs in Charleston, SC, and teach the adult passengers the information needed to pass the literacy exam while on the bus, so they could become registered voters.
They were also responsible (with others) for The Progressive Club, which provided community programs such as legal and financial assistance, child and adult education, and community workshops. The building housed a grocery store, gas station, community center, meeting and classroom space. Leaders including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr took part in workshops and community meetings there.
Their Volkswagen transporter was well-known throughout the South, and feature the slogan “Love is Progress, Hate is Expensive” on the rear hatch. In 2014 the family donated the hatch, along with the engine cover, to the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC where it remains on permanent exhibit.
“The automobile has left an indelible mark on our history and we believe America’s automotive heritage should never be lost nor forgotten,” said Diane Parker, Vice President of the Historic Vehicle Association. “To support our beliefs, we’ve made it our mission to document and share America’s automotive heritage by telling the human-interest stories behind the horsepower, and ensure their histories are captured in perpetuity.”
Images courtesy of the Historic Vehicle Association